We report on the growth and characterization of epitaxial YBa2Cu3O7−δ (YBCO) complex oxide thin films and related heterostructures exclusively by Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) and using first harmonic Nd:Y3Al5O12 (Nd:YAG) pulsed laser source (λ = 1064 nm). High-quality epitaxial YBCO thin film heterostructures display superconducting properties with transition temperature ∼ 80 K. Compared with the excimer lasers, when using Nd:YAG lasers, the optimal growth conditions are achieved at a large target-to-substrate distance d. These results clearly demonstrate the potential use of the first harmonic Nd:YAG laser source as an alternative to the excimer lasers for the PLD thin film community. Its compactness as well as the absence of any safety issues related to poisonous gas represent a major breakthrough in the deposition of complex multi-element compounds in form of thin films.
Here, we present an integrated ultra-high-vacuum (UHV) apparatus for the growth of complex materials and heterostructures. The specific growth technique is the Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) by means of a dual-laser source based on an excimer KrF ultraviolet and solid-state Nd:YAG infra-red lasers. By taking advantage of the two laser sources—both lasers can be independently used within the deposition chambers—a large number of different materials—ranging from oxides to metals, to selenides, and others—can be successfully grown in the form of thin films and heterostructures. All of the samples can be in situ transferred between the deposition chambers and the analysis chambers by using vessels and holders’ manipulators. The apparatus also offers the possibility to transfer samples to remote instrumentation under UHV conditions by means of commercially available UHV-suitcases. The dual-PLD operates for in-house research as well as user facility in combination with the Advanced Photo-electric Effect beamline at the Elettra synchrotron radiation facility in Trieste and allows synchrotron-based photo-emission as well as x-ray absorption experiments on pristine films and heterostructures.
We investigated the relationship between ferromagnetism and metallicity in strained La0.67Ca0.33MnO3 films grown on lattice-mismatched NdGaO3 (001) by means of spectroscopic techniques directly sensitive to the ferromagnetic state, to the band structure, and to the chemical state of the atoms. In this system, the ferromagnetic metallic (FMM) phase spatially coexists with an insulating one in most of the phase diagram. First, the observation of an almost 100% spin polarization of the photoelectrons at the Fermi level in the fundamental state provides direct evidence of the half-metallicity of the FMM phase, a result that has been previously observed through direct probing of the valence band only on unstrained, phase-homogeneous La0.67Sr0.33MnO3. Second, the spin polarization results to be correlated with the occupancy at the Fermi level for all the investigated temperature regimes. These outcomes show that the half-metallic behavior predicted by a double-exchange model persists even in phase-separated manganites. Moreover, the correlation between metallicity and ferromagnetic alignment is confirmed by X-ray magnetic circular dichroism, a more bulk-sensitive technique, allowing one to explain transport properties in terms of the conduction through aligned FMM domains.
In this work, we present an investigation on the effects of thermal annealing on the magnetic response of Lithium Niobate/Fe samples. Fe thin films have been deposited on Lithium Niobate Z-cut ferroelectric substrates by vapor phase epitaxy. A series of annealing treatments were performed on the samples, monitoring the evolution of their magnetic properties, both at the surface and on the volume. The combination of structural, magnetic, chemical and morphological characterizations shows that the modification of the chemical properties, i.e. the phase decomposition, of the substrate upon annealing affects drastically the magnetic behavior of the interfacial Fe layer. By tuning the annealing temperature, the magnetic coercive field value can be increased by an order of magnitude compared to the as-grown value, keeping the same in-plane isotropic behavior. Since no evident differences were recorded in the Fe layer from the chemical point of view, we attribute the origin of this effect to an intermixing process between a fragment of the substrate and the Fe thin film upon critical temperature annealing, process that is also is responsible for the observed changes in roughness and morphology of the magnetic thin film.
A ferromagnetic (FM) thin film deposited on a substrate of Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)O3−PbTiO3 (PMN-PT) is an appealing heterostructure for the electrical control of magnetism, which would enable nonvolatile memories with ultralow-power consumption. Reversible and electrically controlled morphological changes at the surface of PMN-PT suggest that the magnetoelectric effects are more complex than the commonly used “strain-mediated” description. Here we show that changes in substrate morphology intervene in magnetoelectric coupling as a key parameter interplaying with strain. Magnetic-sensitive microscopy techniques are used to study magnetoelectric coupling in Fe/PMN-PT at different length scales, and compare different substrate cuts. The observed rotation of the magnetic anisotropy is connected to the changes in morphology, and mapped in the crack pattern at the mesoscopic scale. Ferroelectric polarization switching induces a magnetic field-free rotation of the magnetic domains at micrometer scale, with a wide distribution of rotation angles. Our results show that the relationship between the rotation of the magnetic easy axis and the rotation of the in-plane component of the electric polarization is not straightforward, as well as the relationship between ferroelectric domains and crack pattern. The understanding and control of this phenomenon is crucial to develop functional devices based on FM/PMN-PT heterostructures.
Here, we present an integrated ultra-high vacuum apparatus—named MBE-Cluster —dedicated to the growth and in situ structural, spectroscopic, and magnetic characterization of complex materials. Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) growth of metal oxides, e.g., manganites, and deposition of the patterned metallic layers can be fabricated and in situ characterized by reflection high-energy electron diffraction, low-energy electron diffraction, Auger electron spectroscopy, x-ray photoemission spectroscopy, and azimuthal longitudinal magneto-optic Kerr effect. The temperature can be controlled in the range from 5 K to 580 K, with the possibility of application of magnetic fields H up to ±7 kOe and electric fields E for voltages up to ±500 V. The MBE-Cluster operates for in-house research as well as user facility in combination with the APE beamlines at Sincrotrone-Trieste and the high harmonic generator facility for time-resolved spectroscopy.
In the framework of piezoelectric/ferromagnetic patterned heterostructures, the purpose of this work is to electrically control the magnetic properties by tuning the morphology, especially by modifying the magnetic shape anisotropy through patterned strain. We have thus designed and studied a heterostructure with bottom nano-striped and top full film electrodes. ZnO piezoelectric and CoFeB magnetic materials were chosen to respond at critical criteria of its geometry. In addition, numerical simulations and magnetostatic calculations were performed to understand the reproduction of the pattern across the multiferroic heterostructure. Calculations have shown that the geometry of the heterostructure presents strict constraints, as for instance the distance between stripes versus the piezoelectric thickness. This study is a preliminary step towards reversible patterning of magnetic properties.
Converse magnetoelectric coupling in artificial multiferroics is generally modeled through three possible mechanisms: charge transfer, strain mediated effects or ion migration. Here the role played by electrically controlled morphological modifications on the ferromagnetic response of a multiferroic heterostructure, specifically FexMn1−x ferromagnetic films on piezoferroelectric PMN‐PT  substrates, is discussed. The substrates present, in correspondence to electrical switching, fully reversible morphological changes at the surface, to which correspond reproducible modifications of the ferromagnetic response of the FexMn1−x films. Topographic analysis by atomic force microscopy shows the formation of surface cracks (up to 100 nm in height) upon application of a sufficiently high positive electric field (up to 6 kV cm−1). The cracks disappear after application of negative electric field of the same magnitude. Correspondingly, in operando X‐ray magnetic circular dichroic spectroscopy at Fe edge in FexMn1−x layers and micro‐MOKE measurements show local variations in the intensity of the dichroic signal and in the magnetic anisotropy as a function of the electrically driven morphological state. This morphologic parameter, rarely explored in literature, directly affects the ferromagnetic response of the system. Its proof of electrically reversible modification of the magnetic response adds a new possibility in the design of electrically controlled magnetic devices.
I explored the properties of systems that were fabricated aiming to exploit enhanced multiferroic behavior and potentially useful functionalities at room temperature. The systems of choice for this thesis were two prototypical multiferroic heterostructures composed by a ferromagnetic thin film deposited on a ferroelectric substrate: LSMO/BTO(001) and Fe,FeMn/PMN-PT(001). I focused on the magnetic response of the thin films to applied electric fields oriented perpendicular to the interface, and influencing the substrate. In both the chosen heterostructures the magnetic layers and ferroelectric substrates are all materials with high ordering temperature.
Controlling magnetism by using electric fields is a goal of research towards novel spintronic devices and future nanoelectronics. For this reason, multiferroic heterostructures attract much interest. Here we provide experimental evidence, and supporting density functional theory analysis, of a transition in La0.65Sr0.35MnO3 thin film to a stable ferromagnetic phase, that is induced by the structural and strain properties of the ferroelectric BaTiO3 (BTO) substrate, which can be modified by applying external electric fields. X-ray magnetic circular dichroism measurements on Mn L edges with a synchrotron radiation show, in fact, two magnetic transitions as a function of temperature that correspond to structural changes of the BTO substrate. We also show that ferromagnetism, absent in the pristine condition at room temperature, can be established by electrically switching the BTO ferroelectric domains in the out-of-plane direction. The present results confirm that electrically induced strain can be exploited to control magnetism in multiferroic oxide heterostructures.